Sunday, February 14, 2010
If you've been out of circulation for a while, this will help catch you up.
A technical question for a TIC article:
"Monogamy may have made sense a few centuries ago, they argue, when we tended to die in our 40s"
Have humans ever actually tended to die in their forties? I'm curious whether there is actual evidence of this, or whether this was an average life span in an era of extremely high infant and child mortality. There are countries in the world today with very short average lifespans, but where someone who has survived into their 20s can expect to live into their 60s or 70s. Anybody know?
Basically, if you survive childhood disease AND don't get killed by trauma in your teens and 20's, you have a slightly better chance of making it an extra 10-15 years due to medical science...assuming you see a doctor.
Everything else (yoga, aerobics, Adkins, herbs, antioxidants, red wine, etc., etc.) is bullcrap.
"Have humans ever actually tended to die in their forties? I'm curious whether there is actual evidence of this, or whether this was an average life span in an era of extremely high infant and child mortality."
Childbirth, warfare, mass spreading of disease for which there was no good treatment at all are all factors that contributed to shorter lifespans.
I think there are historical records from a number of places (from things like village/town records and tombstone inscriptions) indicating that people's life spans were shorter on average not only because of child mortality (though certainly there were those who still lived to a ripe old age). It's an interesting question though, and it would be worth looking at the average lifespan among those who had already survived the childhood years.
Maybe in the modern-day countries you allude to in your post there's been a change in the dynamics of some these things - in general there is better medical care worldwide than there has ever been historically, but it still might not be enough for really vulnerable segments of the population like young children, in these really poor countries.
I don't dispute that lifespans were shorter on average. My question is whether it's a miconception to think that people in a culture with an average lifespan of 45 were unlikely to live much longer than that, or if mortality was clustered in the 0-20 and 65-80 ranges. My suspicion is that even in ancient times, a lifespan in the 60-70 year range was not that uncommon for anyone who survived to their mid-late 20s. If most men who were old enough to marry were likely to survive another 40-50 years, that would refute the monogamy relevance argument.
From family history-- the parts of my family I'm familiar with didn't go to doctors-- if you weren't killed by one thing or another, you'd die of old age, rather like now. (barring life support when you eventually do get sick....) There were just a lot more things that could kill you.
Found a chart of the sort of information you were looking for.
It's formatted oddly-- basically, it's in the format of "If you are age X, then you will live an average of Y years more."
A new-born white male in 1850 would live an average, of 38 ish years, but a ten year old would live an average of 48, and a 50 year old an average of twenty-some more years.
Looks more like "people tended to die before they were twenty" and then drops roughly six years of expectancy every ten after that.